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MS-1 (T-18) Light Tank

Written by Евгений Болдырев
Published on Monday, 19 September 2005 12:09
Last Updated on
Read 19981 times

Development history

Development History

The Malyi Soprovozhdeniya MS-1 (Small Escort MS-1), which later received the T-18 designation, emerged as the first Soviet production tank. The name falls under the mid-1920s Soviet classification that categorised tanks into «Small,» «Main,» and «Maneuverable», the «Malyi Soprovozhdeniya» means Small Escort. Please notice that according to the Soviet nomenclature of that time, the MS-1 wasn't light tank but small support (escort) tank.

In May and June 1926, a three-year plan for tank production was developed, based on a concept of a breakthrough of the 10-km frontline that is defended by two foe's infantry divisions. A number of foreign armoured fighting vehicles were analysed as a possible basis for a mass-produced Soviet tank by a special council of RKKA High command, GUVP and OAT held in September 1926. The French Renault tank classified as M- Small in RKKA nomenclature, was found relatively suitable for infantry support purposes. However, the council members noticed a number of serious problems with the tank, like heavy weight (prohibiting truck transport), low speed, and weak armament. The original 37-mm Hochkiss or Puteaux guns did not provide accurate fire beyond a distance of 400 metres. Sormovo-built siblings (also known as the «Russian Renault») were mentioned as «having unsatisfactory workmanship, having insufficient armament, and being too expensive.»

The Italian FIAT-3000 was considered a more suitable prototype due to its lower weight and its higher speed. This tank was thoroughly studied by the OAT Design Bureau, and a 5-ton tank project lead by S. Shukalov was launched in mid-1926. The first prototype was built in the Bolshevik Factory and was delivered for testing in March 1927. This vehicle received the T-16 index. Compared with the Russian Renault, it had less size, less weight, less cost, and higher speed. Nevertheless, it still had a bunch of serious problems, so a number of parts and mechanisms were recommended for improvement. One more roadwheel was added to the suspension, and some of the details of the engine and of the transmission were altered. Because of its unsatisfactory powertrain performance, A. Mikulin (one of the leading tank engine designers) had to relocate to the factory to work there.

A new tank was built by mid-May, and after a brief road test near Leningrad, it was sent to Moscow (probably May 20-25) for final testing and for approval under the index «Small Support Tank Model 1927 MS-1 (T-18).» It is noteworthy that a whole range of transportation methods (closed and open railroad carriages, truck bed and trailer, and on-tracks) were used during this Leningrad-Moscow trip. The armament was not ready yet, and therefore a mock-up gun was installed. The tank was intended to be painted, but the OAT issued an order «To paint only after acceptance for service!» Probably after the failure of the T-16, which was painted light-green right before the trials, the OAT management felt uncertain. Hence, the tank entered the proving grounds being covered with only light-brown primer. This method of presentation for untested vehicles later became standard procedure.

A special committee was formed to conduct these tests, which were completed on June 11 to 17, 1927 in the Moscow region. As the vehicle was still unarmed, only extensive off-road testing was performed. The tank was deemed generally successful, and it was recommended to accept for service. No later than February 1, 1928, RKKA ordered 108 T-18 tanks to be manufactured during 1928–29 (30 before the fall of 1928). OSOAVIAKhIM sponsored the first 30 tanks, and these tanks participated in parades on November 7, 1929 in Moscow and Leningrad. Unofficially, this series was named «Our response to Chamberlain.»

Initially, only the Bolshevik plant produced T-18 tanks. In April 1929, the Motovilikha Factory (formerly Perm' Artillery Factory) joined in the production and the summary output was increased. However, mass-production of the T-18 in 1929 was slow, so only 96 of the planned 133 vehicles were built. When the Motovilikha Factory finally reached full production levels, the 1929–30 quota of T-18 production was raised to 300 vehicles.

In the fall of 1929, the T-18 participated in the next stage of tests. A two-metre wide by 1.2-metre deep trench was found to be a major obstacle for the tank. It became trapped, and the tank could not escape the trench by either forward or reverse throttle. After a proposal by M. Vasil'kov and by order of Leningrad region Armored force commander S. Kokhansky, some tanks were equipped with a second «tail» up front. They were immediately nicknamed «Nosorog» (Rhinoceros) or «Tyani-tolkaj» (Push-Pulley). Obstacle crossing performance of these tanks slightly improved, but the driver's visibility was reduced dramatically.

T-18 Model 1930

In 1929, the performance of the T-18 was already inadequate according to the increasingly demanding RKKA General Staff. On July 17 and 18, a session of the Revolutionary Military Council had issued a «new structure for tractor, automotive and armored forces» (refers to motorised, mechanised, and tank forces). It was specified that the T-18 tank had become outdated for modern warfare. The directive listed a number of requirements for a possible new support tank already indexed as the T-19.

The directive stated that «until the creation of a new tank, the MS-1 (T-18) should be accepted as an RKKA vehicle. An increase in speed to 25 km/h is highly recommended.» To reach this goal, the engine's power was increased to 40 hp, and a new four-speed (instead of three-speed) gearbox and a new cast drive-wheel were installed. It was proposed to re-arm the tank with a new 37-mm high-velocity gun, but the armament stayed the same. Despite this, the turret was redesigned with an addition of a rear square niche where a radio intended to be installed (in fact, some tanks didn't receive radio). This improved tank was named «MS-1 (T-18) Model 1930.» However, the modernisation did not enhance performance significantly (for example, the speed still failed to reach 25 km/h). So the construction of a new support tank T-20 (some sources name it «T-18 Refined») started in late 1929. The T-18 Model 1930 stayed in production until the appearance of the T-26 at the end of 1931.

In 1933, another attempt to modernise the T-18 was undertaken through alteration of its running gear similar to that of the T-26. A prototype was tested on May 19, 1933 and proved to be a failure. The engine tended to stop in third gear. The roadwheels were loaded unevenly, so the tank nodded while starting and while braking. The tank was unable to overcome a 30-degree hill even in first gear.


In 1937, the GABTU decided to modernise all outdated armored fighting vehicles made before 1930 in order to make them useful in modern war. T-18 tanks played an important role in this modernisation program. The primary attention was paid to an exchange of the powertrain. The GAZ-M1 engine coupled with the radiator and the transmission from the T-38 tank was considered. For this purpose, the engine compartment was rebuilt. The turret shape changed again, the new conical lid was made of high-carbon steel and replaced the mushroom-shaped commander's cupola. The rear niche of the turret was removed. This tank received the T-18M index. The conversion of the T-18 to the T-18M was made by Factory #37 (in Ordzhonikidze, today Vladikavkaz City). Testing of the upgraded vehicle took place in March 1938. A speed of 24.3 km/h was reached, but the old engine did not function well in fourth gear (the planned speed was 33–35 km/h). Because the centre of gravity shifted backwards, the tank was unstable on wet roads and showed poor uphill torque. The verdict was that the idea of using the GAZ-M1 powertrain was reasonable. However, the battle value of T-18M was negligible when compared to the modernisation cost.

Combat employment

Combat Employment

Service in the forces of the first Soviet tanks did not leave behind a large number of clear combat examples.

Altogether some 959 T-18 tanks were built, of which 4 were handed over to the OGPU, 2 to the 4th Directorate, and 1 to the Military-Chemical Directorate of the RKKA. The remaining tanks were sent to tank battalions, regiments, and brigades of the combined arms formations that were being created, and as well to the regiments and brigades of the mechanised formations that were being formed in 1929.

Escort tanks were actively utilized for combat training of troops (103 vehicles were made available to OSOAVIAKhIM and other military-technical training institutions). Thanks to these training opportunities early tankers of the RKKA became familiar with the nuances of operating in cooperation with infantry units, and artillery and infantrymen mastered a form of combat new to them — antitank defense.

The first serious test for the T-18 was the large Bobruisk maneuvers of 1929, at which several commissions monitored the performance of the tanks. The tanks acquitted themselves well in the course of these maneuvers. Despite extremely difficult and grueling conditions of their use, almost all of the T-18s withstood the test. But there were countless minor technical breakdowns that the commission recorded in a single document. This list served as an additional stimulus for modernization of the tank that was undertaken in 1929–30. During this same year the tank took part in actual combat actions. This occurred in the course of the military conflict on the KVZhD, which from the contemporary perspective has been classified as a local conflict.

Russian Empire built the KVZhD during the years 1887–1903. In 1924 the two governments signed the Soviet-Chinese agreement in Peking, by which the KVZhD was considered to be a joint enterprise. However, in the opinion of V. K. Blyukher, the incident of the fall of 1929 in Transbaikal «was neither peace nor war, but only a conflict». Each of the sides participating in this conflict did not desire the interference of a third party, and any military operation in such conditions would have success only if it were prepared in secret and executed with total surprise, after which the verbal wrangling between diplomats could be dragged out for months.

In the fall of 1929 the Transbaikal group of forces of the ODVA were prepared to deliver a lightning-like defeat on the Chinese Mukden Army in the area of Manchzhuria and Dzhalaynor stations and Dzhalaynor mines.

For this purpose, opposing the Chinese grouping of 12–16 thousand men the Transbaikal group of the ODVA deployed 6091 infantrymen and 1599 cavalrymen supported by 88 guns of caliber 76.2mm and larger (not counting regimental weapons), 32 aircraft, 3 armored trains, and 9 T-18 tanks. (There were 10 T-18 tanks in the Chita area in the fall of 1929, one of which was heavily damaged during unloading and had been disassembled into parts for the repair of other tanks.)

Organizationally, this group was comprised of the 21st Perm Rifle Division (in Chita), 35th Rifle Division, 36th Transbaikal Rifle Division, 5th Cavalry Brigade, Buryat-Mongolian Cavalry Division, a separate tank company, 6th Aviation Detachment, 25th Aviation Detachment, 26th Bomber Squadron, 18th Artillery Battalion of corps artillery, 18th Engineer Battalion (in Chita), and 1st Railroad Company. Command of the group was entrusted to S. Vostretsov under the general guidance of the ODVA, which was commanded by V. K. Blyukher.

The Chinese erected field fortifications in the area of Dzhalaynor station. They covered the road to Abagaytuevsk with three lines of full-profile trenches, between which were constructed good shelters. These shelters had roofs made of rails and ties and were filled in with 1 metre of frozen soil. But these fortifications were weaker from the south, where there were two lines of trenches, and from the east where there was only a single trench line in places. The key to all of these positions in the area of Dzhalaynor station and Dzhalaynor mines was Height 269.8, which covered the approaches to the station from the east (with the taking of this hill by a bypassing column the station fell). The Chinese anticipated the employment of tanks or armored cars on the axis of the main attack. They encircled their positions here with an antitank ditch 3–4 metres wide and 2.5 metres deep. A portion of the artillery was designated for firing in direct lay. A large portion of the infantry was equipped with grenades (the Chinese did not erect any multiple-row barbed wire obstacles as some authors have contended).

The group commander, S. Vostretsov, underestimated the enemy and therefore did practically nothing to prepare his forces for battle. During the three-month standoff he did not even undertake aerial reconnaissance of the Chinese positions. As a result of this failure, during the course of the battles the Red Army soldiers encountered enemy fortifications in places where they did not expect them. Thus, until the very moment of the attack they believed that the antitank ditch was the first trenchline, and therefore the soldiers and tanks were not equipped with any mean to overcome it. By the efforts of the group commander secrecy was maintained to an absurd level, which led, for example, to the case where the commander of 36th Division for two hours before his unit's departure had to personally run across the frozen steppe in search of his lost ammunition trucks, to whom he had not issued a clear staging point.

Taking advantage of moonlight, units departed on 16 November at 11:00 p.m. and began moving out to jumping-off positions. All roads and fields were covered with a layer of ice from the previous evening's precipitation. Orientation (navigation) was extremely difficult, the more so because the commanders lacked experience in conducting night tactical marches. Units that had been designated to bypass Dzhalaynor station became lost. One battalion, moving at the rear of the column, deviated off to the west from the intended route and fell under withering fire of Chinese machine-guns, suffering heavy losses. Regrouping was accomplished too late and by the time it was completed the battalions had to go into battle without any kind of rest.

Even up to the time of departure the tank company had not received any kind of order for battle, only its final destination. The tanks had not been topped off with fuel and were practically without ammunition. Three tanks did not have their machine guns mounted. The tank company commander did not have a map of the battle area. It is not surprising that during the night march the tank company became lost and only four tanks arrived at the destination. Here they were refueled and received up to 40 rounds (of a combat norm of 96 rounds).

In accordance with the combat plan, the tanks were supposed to support the actions of 107th Rifle Regiment. The tanks that had become lost were not found before the beginning of combat actions. At approximately 1000 the 103d Rifle Regiment and 5th Cavalry Brigade began to attack the northern and southeastern sectors of the Dzhalaynor station defenses. Simultaneously the 107th and 108th Rifle Regiments attacked the enemy on the main axis. It turned out that these units practically did not have artillery support except their organic regiment artillery. It was laughable that comrade Vostretsov assigned a tank company to them (it was actually a platoon). During the attack on the intermediate fortifications the tanks put on a good show attempting to evade the fire of Chinese artillery. They developed too much speed and the Red Army soldiers could not keep up with them. But the objective was achieved and the fortification near Height #9 and «Zheleznaya» («Iron») fell.

Later, near noon, the tank unit that now comprised six tanks (two of the lost tanks had arrived at 11:50 a.m.) went into the attack at the main line of the western sector of the Chinese defense. Battalions of the 107th Rifle Regiment were thrown into the attack behind them, but the accelerating tanks suddenly halted in front of the antitank ditch. The soldiers moving behind the tanks, who lacked any makeshift means for overcoming the ditch, also stopped. Having exchanged dozens of fruitless shots with the Chinese, the tanks turned to the south and the sector of attack of 108th Rifle Regiment. Despite the good antitank defense here, the Chinese were unable to knock out a single tank because their artillerymen could not have been worse in their firing. The appearance of tanks did not incite panic among them — just surprise, according to recollections of the participants. The Chinese positions literally bristled with binoculars and telescope tubes.

Of the tanks that fell behind, all that is known is that two of them got lost and linked up with their group in the evening. One tank fell out with a broken transmission. Two tanks reached the position of the 106th Sakhalin Regiment and, lacking any ammunition, just the same supported with their «tracks and fearsome appearance» the attack of the intermediate Chinese fortifications near Abgaytui intersection. Here the tank commanders operated with skill and the soldiers took shelter behind them. Two tanks were disabled in the course of the battle but one of these was repaired by evening.

The combat actions on the following day also were not laid out clearly for the tank company. Eight machines supported the attack of 108th Rifle Regiment in the area of «Mother» and «Daughter» Heights. The battle lasted almost three hours. The tanks attempted to assist the infantry, but were unable to do so until the antitank ditch was partially destroyed. Later several machines managed to penetrate into the Chinese positions. One was damaged by grenades but the remainder swept the trenches with intensive machine gun fire. The onrushing infantry consolidated the success.

After the occupation of Dzhalaynor came the turn of the garrison of Manchzhuria station. The tanks again supported the 108th Rifle Regiment. Seven of them remained serviceable. Two could not be repaired. At dawn after an artillery preparation the tanks were hurriedly thrown forward, ignoring the mission of covering their own infantry. But here their appearance was apparently unexpected. The Chinese even ceased fire and looked in shock at these fantastic machines. The tanks crawled to the positions, conducting furious fire from machine guns. One of them came within reach of the objective when Chinese grenades flew toward it. Only the efforts of the onrushing Red Army soldiers saved the crew from death. The driver-mechanic was seriously wounded. One tank burst into the trench and got so stuck it had to be dug out after the battle. Another tank lost a track, which jumped off while the tank was negotiating the ditch.

On the whole the activity of the tank company in the course of the KVZhD conflict was evaluated as satisfactory. Also noted was the insufficient training of the drivers, inability of the commanders to remain oriented on the terrain, and lack of communications between them. Firing from tank cannons demonstrated the unsuitability of the shells against field fortifications. The machine-guns, which were more effective even from the perspective of morale, were of greater use. Desires were expressed to increase the caliber of the tank cannon, increase the number of machine guns, and improve the mobility, speed, and armor of the tank.

But there were also complaints in the tank unit, for example, the report of the deputy chief of staff Lapin, who saw in the tanks only negative aspects and decried the «expenditure of the peoples' money on these toys». He preferred that more cannons, armored trains, and armored cars be manufactured.

The significant theme that the old tanks had practically been used up was begun in 1938. Because the modernization of the T-18 that was conducted in 1938 did not yield the anticipated results, the matter of their future use became an acute issue. By the beginning of 1938 some 862 T-18 tanks remained of the 959 that had been built. The remainders had fallen into disrepair and were delivered to the scrap yard after the removal of all armaments and assemblies from them. 160 tanks of the Leningrad Military District that had worn out engines had been turned over to fortified districts in 1934–37 for the construction of concrete pillboxes.

The condition of the tanks that remained in units, and especially in training organizations, was horrible. A large part of them simply were scattered about on the territory of the military units with unserviceable engines, transmissions, and so on. A majority of these had been disarmed. There were no spare parts and repair was accomplished only by removing parts from one tank to repair the others. An instruction of the People's Commissar of Armaments of 2 March 1938 decided their fate: 700 T-18 and 22 T-24 tanks were to be turned over to fortified regions of military districts. There it was intended that unrepairable vehicles be used to create fixed firing points. It was recommended to use twin DA-2 machine-guns, two DT machine-guns, or the model-1932 45 mm tank gun for arming of these new pillboxes. The hulls of these machines, along with their engines and transmissions, were to be turned over for scrap metal. Tanks that could still move were partly rearmed with the model-1932 45 mm tank gun and given to fortified region garrisons to be used as mobile firing points.

The majority of the T-18 tanks were not around at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. Approximately 450 tank hulls and about 160 tanks that could still move under their own power were able to serve in the defense of the USSR. It has been confirmed that in 1941 the Osovetskiy Fortified Region, which occupied approximately 35 kilometres of frontage, had 36 armored turret mounts (including those from the T-18) equipped with 45 mm tank cannons, and also two tank companies (the 1st, consisting of 18 T-18 tanks in the Kol'no area, and the 2nd, of 18 T-18 tanks in the Belyashevo area). In June 1941 the 2nd Company successfully fought with German combat vehicles, a significant portion of which also were light tanks, armored cars, and armored troop transporters.

Vladimir-Volynskiy Fortified Region was supported by elements of the 87th Rifle Division, which did not have any tanks. However, during the German attack on 22 June, the division was supposed to receive five T-18 tanks at afternoon at Ustilug station. Because these tanks did not have armaments or engines, it was intended that they be given the simplest gadgets for installation of a DP light machine-gun and by 23–24 June placed on the terrain as immobile firing points to cover dead space, defiles, ravines, and so on. The best location for such «pillboxes» was on the reverse slopes of hills. It is known that the tanks were received and set up, but details about their combat employment are not known.

Somewhat more information is known about the T-18 in the 9th Mechanised Corps. On 23–29 June 1941 the mechanised corps participated in the large tank battle in the area of Rovno — Brody — Lutsk, advancing on Kleist's tank group from Lutsk toward Dubno. By 29 June the corps had suffered great losses in equipment. To replace these losses a battalion of tanks came forward from Sarny consisting of the following: a company of 12 T-26 tanks, a company of 15 mixed T-26 and BT tanks, and a company of 14 T-18 tanks with a T-26 command tank. This force also suffered losses. A summary regarding the composition of the mechanised corps on 2 July notes the presence of two T-18 tanks, one of which was unserviceable.

The Minsk Fortified Region also had T-18 tanks. On 23 June 1941 a T-18, armed with a 45-mm gun without engine was established as a pillbox to protect the bridge across the River Drut (in the area of Belynichi). The crew of this tank, artillerymen Sergeant Gvozdev and Private Lupov, defended the bridge over the course of four hours and destroyed three German tanks, one armored transporter, and several wheeled vehicles, and also dispersed up to a company of infantry. As a result of their efforts they were put in for award of the Order of the Combat Red Banner.

The last of the known facts regarding the combat fate of the T-18 relates to the battle for Moscow. Nine T-18 tanks participated in battles in the winter of 1941–43 as part of the 150th Tank Brigade, and remained accounted for in documents until February 1942.

Construction features

Construction Features

Armored Hull

The hull of the tank is of riveted construction, from armored plates of 8–16 mm thickness assembled on a frame. The early production tanks had special two-layered (base and top) and three-layered armor plates produced using the method of A. Rozhkov. Later, in order to economize on production costs of the tank, conventional one-layered armor was employed. The tank was divided into three compartments:
— engine and transmission compartment;
— fighting compartment;
— driver compartment.

It is interesting to note that the T-18 had a «classic design» with the engine and transmission compartment and driving sprockets in the rear of the hull.

The driver's compartment was at the front of the tank. A tri-fold hatch provided the driver-mechanic access to the compartment. Two of its panels folded back to the left and right. Movement of these panels was limited by latching mechanisms. The front folding shield raised upward and was held in this position by a lock. In the right portion of the shield was a lug for mounting the body of a monocular observation periscope (armored glass). On the left side of the shield was a narrow vision slit. In the event of intensive enemy fire, it could be covered by an armored shutter with two cross-shaped apertures. When absolutely necessary the vision slit could be completely covered. Similar narrow vision slits covered by internal sliding shutters mounted in the forward slopes provided a panoramic field of view of the battlefield.

Brackets were mounted to the sides of the bow portion of the hull under the idler wheel axle. The purpose of these brackets was to regulate the tension of the tracks with the aid of special anchors located on the sides of the tank. On front left track tension mechanism bracket was a headlight and on the right side a horn. In a combat situation the light folded into the hull of the tank. The rear light was covered with a red glass lens and mounted on the left side of the hull (sometimes on the right above the exhaust pipe). It served not only as a warning device in darkness but also as a light device for guiding a column.

A peculiarity of the construction of the hull was that it was built without any under-turret box. However, on the upper sides of the hull were attached special triangular-shaped «boxes» (the spaces above the tracks), which contained the fuel cells. The filler spouts for these fuel cells were covered by armored caps. For access to the fuel cell, in the rear portion of the «box» was a cover secured by three bolts and in addition a securing ring. Upon removal of the bolts the cover opened to the side on a hinge. These «boxes» hanging over the tracks also served the function of fenders in the middle of the vehicle. On the rear of the tank were fenders made from thin metal, and on the front of the tank fenders made from canvas (a small number of tanks produced in the first series had metal or plywood fenders on the front).

A shaped piece of armor plate, which when necessary can be folded downward on pivot pins to provide access to the engine compartment, covers the engine-transmission compartment of the tank. On top of the engine compartment cover, which can be folded upward and forward, is mounted a cowl with a slotted opening oriented toward the turret. Its purpose is to permit cooling air into the engine and simultaneously protects the engine compartment against penetration by enemy fire. The rear portion of the hull has a shaped recess, which on the backside is covered by a metal casing with a row of small-diameter holes. Heated air from the engine compartment is directed toward these holes by a directional flue and is released outside the tank. This flue can be closed by a door to retain the heated air for engine warming. A vertical armor plate positioned in front of the metal casing from the motor protects the motor against damage from projectiles and shrapnel.

Inside the hull the fighting compartment is isolated from the engine compartment by a partition. This partition has a bi-folding door with lock for accessing the engine compartment from inside the tank. On the partition also are mounted taps for shutting off the flow of fuel from the right and left tanks and a tap for regulating the fuel flow to the engine by pressure pump or gravity.

In the bottom of the hull under the fighting compartment is a hatch that permits the discard of expended shell casings and the removal of water that has fallen into the hull. The hatch is closed with a cover and is held by a lever that is secured by a hand-tightened release. For ease of work in the tank the top of this hatch cover is covered by a platform insert (to bring the hatch up to floor level).

On tanks of initial production there is also a hatch in the hull bottom under the engine area, however it provided small benefit and based on instructions from the OAT dated 14 February 1930, this hatch was deleted from the design.

To the rear portion of the hull was attached an extension-a «tail», which permitted the relatively short tank to overcome broad trenchworks. Two attachment loops were welded to the lower portion of the rear hull and one loop on the front hull for evacuation of the tank should it become disabled or mired.


The tank's turret was riveted, and initially had an almost rectilinear six-sided shape with inclined walls. It rested on the sub-turret armor plate through a bearing race and rotated by means of a manual crank. On the back wall of the turret was a backrest, on which was hung a broad strap that the commander used for a seat. The turret was held at the desired position of rotation by three stops spaced equally on the turret ring, two in front and one at the rear. On the roof of the turret was an observation cupola with hatch cover that opened on hinges. Springs were contained in the hinge that helped to open the hatch and a latch was installed to hold it in the open position. Ventilation holes were formed around the perimeter of the hatch base that could be covered when necessary with a sliding circular shield. Observation slits in the vertical walls of the cupola were provided with leather facings to protect the commander's face against bruising, and the cupola itself had a ventilator hole covered by a sliding shield of a teardrop shape where the cupola was joined with the turret roof.

The shape of the turret was changed when the tank was modernized. Additional space was added at the rear of the turret for the installation of a radio set. The recess was closed from the back by a folding cover that permitted installation and removal of the radio and weapon (actually, a portion of the ammunition stowage was in this space). The shield for the ventilating portal of the turret became rectangular and now folded upward on hinges. The new turret was 140 kg heavier.

The tank's armament, consisting of a 37mm Hotchkiss cannon and machine gun, was located in the forward portion of the turret. The cannon was located on the left side in a rectangular opening and the machine gun on the right side in a ball mounting. When necessary the machine gun could be shifted to a hull opening that was located on the left rear face and covered in normal conditions by an armor plate.


Initially the artillery armament of the tank consisted of a 37mm Hochkiss Gun. The weapon's barrel, with a length of 20 calibers, was borrowed from a naval cannon of the same name, but the wedge-type breech had a different design. The recoil mechanism consisted of a hydraulic compressor-brake and recoil spring, assembled together. Officially the cannon was accepted for armament in the Red Army in 1920 and mounted on the «Russian Renault» tank and several armored cars. The cannon was mounted on the first series of T-18 tanks from old stocks, among which were models that had «reverse» threads (counterclockwise). However in 1928 it was replaced by the 37 mm PS-1 Gun, made in Soviet Russia and presented as a variant of the Hochkiss modernized by Peter Syachintov. The striker and firing mechanism in the PS-1 were changed, along with the cannon cover. The Soviet-produced version was simpler in production and included a recoil moderator, an equalizer for easing vertical lay, change in shell holder, shoulder rest, and so on.

Single-loading shells which were stored in canvas bags inside the tank were used in the cannon. On tanks of the initial production series, the guns were equipped only with diopter sights. However, in 1929 the Motovilikha Machine-building Plant began the assembly of the 2.45-power optical sight for the 37 mm Tank Cannon with a field of view of 14° 20′ and an exit pupil diameter of 2.6 mm. This sight, developed in Leningrad, was mounted on some T-18 tanks produced after 1930.

The modernization of the tank in 1929–30 was undertaken to increase its firepower by mounting the more powerful 37 mm B-3 Tank Gun, produced in accordance with re-worked features by the Rheinmetall Corporation. This new gun differed in that it had greater firing range and also a semi-automatic breech mechanism. A tank equipped with this new cannon had a significant advantage in armament. Simultaneous with the mounting of a new gun, which had greater weight than the old gun, the decision was made to balance the turret, which led to the appearance of a new rear stowage compartment. However, the production of the B-3 cannon was not fully underway practically until 1932, and the first tank that received these cannons was the BT-2. The T-18 continued to be equipped with the PS-1.

The machine gun armament of the tank consisted initially of the two-barreled 6.5-mm Fedorov-Ivanov tank machinegun in a Shpagin ball mounting. However the life of this machine gun was very short. In 1930 the Degtyarev Tank Machinegun (DT), which was the basic automatic weapon of Soviet tanks for the next 25 years, was adopted for the arming of all tanks in the Red Army.

Engine and Transmission

The mobility of this tank was provided by a gasoline four-cylinder, four-stroke, air-cooled engine designed by A. Mikulin, producing 35–40 h.p. In comparison with existing power plants of tanks of that era, it had some peculiarities. For example, ignition was provided by two sets of spark plugs (two spark plugs per cylinder) from a magneto, which ensured that a powerful spark was distributed to each cylinder when the motor was started, and from a dynamo-magneto, which served both for ignition and for supplying the driving lights.

The second peculiarity was the unified engine and transmission in a single assembly and the clutch (primarily friction), which was an absolute innovation at that time.

And finally, the engine was mounted transversely in the engine compartment, which gave the tank a measurable superiority in weight and length compared to tanks that had a longitudinally mounted power pack.

The simple differential was joined to the transmission, on the output shafts of which were mounted gears. Together with drive wheels they comprised the tank's final drive.

On tanks of the third series, the output of the engine was increased to 40 h.p., which together with a four-speed transmission enabled the tank to reach a speed of 17.5 kmh. The first production series of tanks were equipped with Bosch electrical systems and tanks produced after 1930 were equipped with Sintilla electrical systems.

Running Gear

The drive wheel consisted of an aluminum hub with steel rim attached with external and internal teeth. On the outside this wheel was covered by an armored shield. The hub rested on the axle over two bearing races.

The idler was an aluminum disk with a spacer ring and two rubber linings. The idler arm, by which the idler wheel was attached to a bracket on the hull, was elbow-shaped, and rotated in the hull bracket, supporting the track under tension.

The suspension and running gear of the tank consisted of six bogies with shock absorbers and a pair of rollers. In addition, the first pairs of rollers were joined with an additional support roller by a linking mechanism (see illustration). On early production tanks the design of the forward suspension bracket differed from the two rear brackets by the presence of eyes for attachment of the linking mechanism to the front supporting roller. Its springing lengthened the moment arm of the suspension mechanism. Beginning in 1930, standardized brackets were mounted.

The upper run of the track lay on four rubber-lined support rollers (on each side). The first three rollers were held up by leaf springs. All the rubber linings of the tank's running gear were manufactured at the plant «Krasnij Treugolnik» (The Red Triangle).

The track of the T-18 consisted of 51 blocks (actually from 49-53). The track blocks of early production were complicated in manufacture. The consisted of a cast base with ears and a ridge for engagement with the drive sprocket. To the outer portion of the block was riveted a steel flange with lateral lap joints for increasing the magnitude of the bearing surface during the tank's movement on soft ground. The top of the flange had a grouser riveted to it to improve traction. The track blocks were connected to each other by a hollow steel bolt. These bolts were contained on both ends by bronze bushings attached with cotter pins.

Beginning in the summer of 1930, tanks began to receive new track made from cast track blocks of the «eagle claw» type, which were highly effective, especially in soft soil.

Controls for Driving and Communications

Band brakes were intended for use in turning the tank. They also were employed for stopping the tank to fire and for parking brakes. The brake drum for the left or right track was located on the differential shaft between the differential case and the final drive sprocket. Two levers and a pedal were provided to control these brakes. Both levers or the brake pedal could be used to stop the tank. A toothed sector that held the brake pedal in the depressed position was used for a parking brake.

The gear linkage with lever was mounted under the driver-mechanic's right hand on the floor. The handle for controlling the ignition (linkage to the magneto) was located on the driver's left side.

Gauges were mounted on a plate to the right of the driver-mechanic on the side of the tank. In addition to instruments, on this plate were mounted the central switch for distribution of current between components (running lights, starter, horn), gauges to monitor oil pressure and temperature in the system and the engine, magneto switch, starter button, inspection and illumination lamps, and horn button. The storage battery was to the right of this plate on the vehicle floor. The light switch was mounted on the lower front slope of the hull.

The tank had no special instruments for internal or external communication. True, in 1929 the OAT issued a tasking to the Scientific Test Institute of Communications for a tank radio set. In particular the institute was instructed in writing to prepare not one, but immediately three radio sets, one each for the ordinary tank, platoon commander, and company commander. These radio sets were created, but not one of them was normally inserted into the space reserved for them because the mounting bolts, brackets, and hardware were not taken into consideration during the issuing of the manufacturing order.

Translated by: James F. Gebhardt
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Proof-reader: Mark Jaremco
Sources: «First Serially Produced Small Escort Tank MS-1», Arsenal-Press, A. Beskurnikov, Moscow 1992
A. Beskurnikov, M. Svirin, «Pervye Sovetskie Tanki» Armada #1;
Bruno Benvenuti «Carri Amati» vol.1, Roma;
A. Beskurnikov «Pervij Serijnij Tank Malyi Soprovozhdeniya MS-1», Arsenal-Press, Moscow, 1992.

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